In 1975, Mary Tyler Moore was going to make it after all, and I was a precocious fourth grader, playing sports in the local YMCA league. I loved Saturday morning cartoons, like Hong Kong Phooey and Super Friends, but didn’t quite understand the double entendres of game shows like Match Game or Tattletales. However, I was able to understand conjunctions, verbs, and nouns thanks to Schoolhouse Rock. I loved those educational tunes, as well as these ten soft rock hits from that pivotal year. You know Mare was spinning these 45s, when she wasn’t complaining about the price of beef.
“Best of My Love” – Eagles
Released November 1974
Chart Peak: #1 Billboard Hot 100 on March 1, 1975
This laid-back, country-flavored soft-rocker is almost a ballad, but not quite. Direct from California’s legendary Laurel Canyon, “Best of My Love” was one of the top songs of 1975 and was the group’s first number one single. Don Henley pleads with a former lover and you can hear the desperation in his voice. The acoustic and slide guitars, the vocal harmonies, the sparse bass lines, and the barely-there percussion – it all fits perfectly. The song’s bridge is one of the group’s best and when Henley slips into falsetto amid the soaring backing vocals, everything else stops so you can soak it all in.
“Nightingale” – Carole King
Released December 1974
Chart Peak: #9 Billboard Hot 100 on March 1, 1975
While this single hasn’t endured as King’s songs from her legendary Tapestry album, it was popular back in ‘75 and certainly worthy of inclusion here. There’s hooks galore, to be sure, but I just love the groove, which is propelled by the guitar and syncopated drum beat. And those young background vocalists? King’s daughters Louise Goffin and Sherry Goffin.
“Fallin’ in Love” – Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds
Released May 1975
Chart Peak: #1 Billboard Hot 100 on August 23, 1975
What a fantastic sentiment: falling in love with your sweetheart all over again. This hit single provides lush orchestration including harps and strings, three-part harmony, a rolling melody, and a simple chorus so good they start the song with it. Soulful vocals with just a touch of country harmonies make this a song to be shared with that special someone. The trio hit the Top 40 three times; this was their only chart-topper.
“Laughter in the Rain” – Neil Sedaka
Released October 1974
Chart Peak: #1 Billboard Hot 100 on February 1, 1975
Sedaka, then 35, hadn’t had a Top 40 hit in the US since 1963. He joined forces with Elton John who helped orchestrate his comeback in the mid ‘70s. Sedaka hadn’t lost his knack for writing catchy melodies and this exuberant, contagious single has his talents on full display. His immediately recognizable voice still had its boyish wistfulness and the backing musicians were guitarist Danny Kortchmar and the rest of James Taylor’s band. The chorus soars above strings and sax fills from Jim Horn. With this hit, Sedaka had his first #1 single since 1962 and went on to a very successful mid-70s return, including writing the top single of 1975, The Captain & Tennille’s smash “Love Will Keep Us Together” as well as having a second #1 hit later in the year, “Bad Blood.”
“I’m Not in Love” – 10cc
Released May 1975
Chart Peak: #2 Billboard Hot 100 on July 26, 1975
Despite its title, this song of clever denial is actually a heartfelt love song. Atmospheric with tidal waves of loops and overdubs, this single was unlike anything I had ever heard and even if I live to be a hundred, I’ll never hear anything like it again. To these ears, the thick, ethereal textures were achieved through use of a mellotron, overdubbed voices, and electric piano run through a phase shifter along with the technically perfect production. Quite honestly, though, the song is so well-written, it doesn’t need all that production, but I’m glad it’s there just the same. [Editor’s note: And remember, big boys don’t cry.]
“Miracles” – Jefferson Starship
Released March 1975
Chart Peak: #3 Billboard Hot 100 on October 18, 1975
Marty Balin gives us a great soft rock single, complete with smooth vocal harmonies, string accompaniment, and a manic sax solo. Electric piano and guitar noodle around under Balin and Grace Slick pleading with each other. This would be the band’s biggest hit until they dropped the ‘Jefferson’ from their name. The full-length album version clocks in at almost 7 minutes; the single version is 3½ minutes long, edited not only for length but also to remove some risqué lyrics. [Editor’s note: Prudes beware! Here’s the album version.]
“Dance with Me” – Orleans
Released July 1975
Chart Peak: #6 Billboard Hot 100 on October 18, 1975
The intro is a simple guitar lick but then the tight vocal harmonies grab you and don’t let go for the next three minutes. Great melody, catchy hooks, and a bouncy beat make for an infectious single that’s a fun song for singing in the car along with the AM radio. And, honestly, how often are you treated to melodica solo? “Pick the beat up and kick your feet up?” Don’t mind if I do. Fun fact: songwriter/vocalist John Hall later served in the US House of Representatives, 2007-2011. Here the boys are performing live on The Midnight Special.
“My Little Town” – Simon & Garfunkel
Released October 1975
Chart Peak: #9 Billboard Hot 100 on December 13, 1975
After a three year hiatus, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel teamed up with producer Phil Ramone and the Muscle Shoals Swampers to record this one-off reunion single that would appear on solo albums by both men. The duo’s distinctive harmonies and beautiful chord progressions belie the song’s lyrics about a man who disliked the town where he grew up and was happy to get out.
“The Way I Want To Touch You” – Captain & Tennille
Released September 1975
Chart Peak: #4 Billboard Hot 100 on November 29, 1975
Not their biggest hit in 1975 (that would be “Love Will Keep Us Together”), however this passionate love ode is the recording that originally landed a recording contract for the duo. Written by Toni Tennille, it is equal parts Carole King and Beach Boys. Just listen to how she takes it nice and easy on the sexy verse before letting loose and belting out the chorus on top of overdubbed backing vocals. My older sister bought this album in the summer of 1975 and by the time this song was released as a single that fall, I knew every word. [Editor’s note: Sound quality isn’t great in this clip, but it’s cool to see them on stage in Santa Monica in ’75.]
“Lovin’ You” – Minnie Riperton
Released January 1975
Chart Peak: #1 Billboard Hot 100 on April 5, 1975
A stone-cold classic. Stevie Wonder plays electric piano while Riperton tenderly plays acoustic guitar and sings. And boy howdy does she ever sing. Hearing this today, it’s hard to believe that “Lovin’ You” was buried near the end of the Perfect Angel album and the fourth song from that album to be released as a single. Sometimes all you can do is sit back, take it all in, and say “wow!”
I can guarantee that all of the above tunes were heard in all their brilliance on the hand-held transistor AM radio that I bought at the local Radio Shack. Mom said I couldn’t take it to show my classmates, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t accompany me on my walks to school every now and then. And they were no doubt in heavy rotation in the break room at WJM with Lou, Ted and Murray.